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REPORT, INCIDENT No.38: Elizabeth Demaray
Tell Me TV

In Elizabeth Demaray’s TellMe TV project, Bugs Bunny, Walter Cronkite, Officer Frank Poncherello, and various other characters of our media Yesterday, are removed from the natural habitats of their distinct TV-land lives, and reframed within the folksy oral histories of The Everyman. Interview subjects recount their early experience with serial fictional space as it was intertwined with their own presumably matter-of-fact lives after school in the den.

Demaray’s statement about the project supposes that the stories deployed and consumed through television were ‘shared by us all’. TV programming is viewed as a generous offering, -one that provides mythology that becomes entangled with our lives in such a way as to prepare us for an ability to empathize with our neighbors in a wider, more socially fractured culture. –TV is not to be indicted for its complicity in this fracturing. TellMe concentrates on the internalizing of these cultural myths, eschewing an interpretation of television in the virulent manner of say, Don DeLillo’s White Noise. - The TellMe project presents nostalgia about TV portrayed as a mass-distributed bedtime story, a shared experience that is not really about the partially-remembered narratives so much as a sense-memory trigger for childhood past-time. In the retelling of these stories, there is a duel (and equally hazy) personal history becoming conflated and less distinguishable; as vaguely recognizable memories told by a stranger: When best cropped, the stories can cause uncanny sensations, like hearing an old, private family tale muttered by an unknown passer-by.

Demaray’s television is not a sinister, crypto-fascist tool for leading the masses. Maybe the project does not dwell there because the memories are incomplete and so even as they become slightly connective, they are still elusive. Or maybe it is because many of the adults in the Hudson iteration of TellMe insisted, before retelling their story, that they grew up in a TV-free household, rather than the media-junky environment of Delillo’s Gladney family. However, the medium penetrated their protected domestic spaces nonetheless.

Tellme dignifies the obsolete stories we grew up with by validating our relationship to those stories. It is a thoughtful trick that had participants surprising themselves by suddenly breaking into songs or tearing up as they slipped into the roles of the hero with a thousand faces.

-Axel Bishop, IR